CALSTAR 6 air ambulance pilots operating helicopters around Lake Tahoe are successfully using military-grade night vision goggles to navigate around mountain peaks and bad weather to transport patients from the South Lake Tahoe (California) area to emergency rooms in Reno.
According to the article in the Tahoe Daily Tribune, the pilots have been using the night vision devices for about five years now. They report the technology has significantly improved the safety and efficiency of their nighttime operations.
“…they provided us more ability to take care of patients. That’s what it boils down to really. Because we wouldn’t have been able to do the flight tonight, possibly, without goggles,” Langevin added. “Which means that patient is delayed in his care, and he was in serious condition, and therefore he would have suffered, had we not had the ability to have these goggles.”
We concur. More and more of our business is coming from non-military organizations who are finding all kinds of applications for night vision, thermal imaging and infrared illumination systems. It’s always interesting to see something which was originally a military technology put to peaceful use in areas such as search and rescue and wildlife conservation.
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Usually reserved for animals or superheroes, night vision sure helps when you’ve got to find things in the dark, so understandably the Life Saver Rescue Helicopter crew is chuffed that their helicopters have been fitted with high-tech Night Vision Goggles (NVGs).
The NVGs, which have cost around $300,000 to install, will be worn by pilots and chief crew members on search and rescue operations and other missions after dark.
Chief pilot Lynton Beggs said there were a few situations last year where the goggles could have helped speed up the rescue process.
“The goggles allow us to fly lower to the ground. Since we’ve implemented the NVGs we’ve had tasks towards Mt Warning National Park and places with high terrain, which usually are too high-risk to attend to,” Lynton said.
He also said the NVGs greatly magnify the smallest light sources, such as a mobile phone, a cigarette lighter or a small battery-operated torch, from up to five kilometres away.
“This means the crew’s ability to pinpoint lost bush walkers, for instance, has been greatly enhanced,” he said. “The goggles will improve the chances of rescue for people who are injured or lost at night and in need of urgent medical attention. It also means the helicopter will be available to help in more police search and rescue activities after dark.”
Lynton said the cost was well worth it.
“There is substantial training required by the staff and also recurrent training involved,” Lynton said of why the cost was quite high, despite the goggles themselves only costing $60,000. “The technology is a step in the right direction, we can provide a greater service to the Northern Rivers community, and ultimately it means we can save more lives, so the cost makes sense.”
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